Autistic Spectrum Disorder

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Autistic spectrum disorder, otherwise known as autism, is a complex disorder of the central nervous system and a developmental disability that comes from a neurological disorder that affects the normal functioning of the brain. (Dowshen, 2008). It is not something one can catch or pass along to someone else. It makes interacting with other people incredibly difficult. Autism was first identified in 1943 by Dr. Leo Kanner of Johns Hopkins Hospital. Autism spectrum disorder can usually be reliably diagnosed by age 3, however new research is pushing back the age of diagnosis to as early as six months. Autism is a developmental disorder that makes it very difficult for one to communicate with others and live a normal life. (What is Autism? An Overview, 2008)

The cause of autism remains undiscovered, however many researchers believe autism is linked to differences in brain chemicals and neurotransmitters. No one has yet to have a definite answer as to where these differences come from, however; many believe the differences are in our genes. Some also believe that maternal rubella, PKU, encephalitis, and meningitis may predispose a child to it. It is somewhat more common in particular families, but not inherited in any recognizable pattern. Doctors often tell families who have one child with autism that research shows they have a very high risk of having another child with autism or a similar disorder. (eMedicineHealth, 2009).

According to the statistics provided by the National Institute of Health, the Centers of Disease Control & Prevention, and the U.S. Department of Education, 1.5 million Americans are afflicted with autism. It is the fastest growing developmental disability affecting the United States today. Today, 1 in every 150 individuals is diagnosed with autism, making it more common than pediatric cancer, diabetes, and AIDS combined. (Foundation, 2012).

Autism is 50 times more common in siblings of autistic children than it is in the general population, although it occurs 3 to 4 times more frequently in boys than in girls. If one identical twin is autistic, it is almost certain that the other twin will be too. Oregon is the state with the highest reported rate of autism in the country. (Dennis Wall, 2012). One in every 250 youths between the ages of 6 and 21 has been diagnosed with autism. In some counties, such as Lane County, one in every 91 youths are autistic. However approximately 20% of autistic children can eventually live independently. (Larson, 2000).

The best way to identify autism is to watch how a child behaves and communicates with other people. Parents can help by telling the doctor how the child acts at home and about their failure to reach appropriate developmental milestones. Some parents describe a child that seemed different from birth, while others describe their child as developing normally and then lost skills. (Susan Cole, 2009).

A team of specialists, including psychologists, neurologists, psychiatrists, speech therapists, and developmental pediatricians will evaluate the child and compare levels of development and behavior with those of other kids the same age. Together, they will decide whether the child has autism or something else. At birth, the autistic child appears normal. Within the first 30 months, he or she becomes increasingly unresponsive to the environment. The child may not speak, may develop obsessive routines, may deliberately injure themselves, may become hyperactive, may have seizures, or may respond with severe tantrums to any sudden changes. (What is Autism? An Overview, 2008). People with this disease virtually lack or have no social interaction skills. They appear normal physically, however, their intellectual ability ranges widely. Autism cause kids to experience the world differently from the way most other kids do, for example, kids with autism often cannot make connections that other kids make easily. They have very poor...
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